Restaurant Recommendations in Italy

Pasta pomodoro Photo by Margie MiklasCertainly one of the best things about traveling to Italy is the food. Mangia, mangia! In Italy there are thousands of restaurants and almost every one of them is Italian. I almost laugh when someone asks for a recommendation of where to eat, since most places I found in Italy were always excellent. Tutto erano buoni!

My favorite places are small, intimate restaurants where the owner of the restaurant acts as host, waiter, chef, or all three. Five years ago, when I traveled solo in Italy for three months, I often tended to eat earlier than the local Italians. Occasionally I was the only one in the restaurant, and those experiences are among my fondest in Italy.

I must admit, especially in Venice or Rome, it is easy to run into tourist traps when it comes to restaurants. It’s always better to ask the front desk clerk for a recommendation of where the locals go. I did this in Amalfi and was pleased with the result.

Amalfi Restaurant Photo by Margie Miklas

One of my favorite little restaurants is in Venice, and I discovered this little gem by accident. By little, I literally mean it has only six small tables. Anima Bella is on a side street or calle, Calle Fiubera. Not far from St Mark’s Basilica, this cozy restaurant’s ambience made me feel as if I were part of the family.

Trattoria Anima Bella in Venice Photo by Margie Miklas

From each of the closely arranged tables a clear view of the kitchen allows one to see what is going on. I have been there three times, and two of the times the female owner, who cooked in the kitchen with one helper, also served as hostess and waitress.

Photo by Margie Miklas

The food was delicious and the prices were reasonable for Venice.

This one is worth a recommendation, but be sure to make a reservation, because after 7:30 pm you won’t get a table.

Have you had similar experiences of finding small out-of-the-way restaurants in Italy?
I’d love to hear your feedback so please leave a comment.

Ciao and Grazie

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14 Responses

  1. pamcarey

    My husband and I spent time in Ravello on the Amalfi coast, enjoying the views from our room in the Palazzo Sasso. Our concierge recommended Trattoria Da Cumpa’ Cosimo, down the steps and through the piazza, where owner, cook, godmother, and butcher (in the daytime) Netta Bottone holds court. Although the pasta mista is unbelievable (seven pastas and sauces), as are the steak dishes and vegetables, ask Netta to make you her specialty of the day. That’s what my husband did. He was rewarded with a bear hug (twice) and a pinch of his cheeks (“Buffalo Mozzarellas!” she said). The homemade gelato was incredible, and Limoncello was on the house.
    Trattoria Da Cumpa’ Cosimo
    44 Via Roma

  2. Gracefully Global

    I appreciate this recommendation! I’ve already saved it on my Google map. I don’t have any go-to restaurants near the Basilica, so this is going to save me some walking. Thanks!! 🙂

  3. karenincalabria

    Hi Margie, I so agree about the small, family-owned restaurants with the personal touch, and I’ve had many wonderful experiences that were made so with the combination of the food and the personal interaction. As for the tourist traps in bigger cities, I avoid places with big signs in multiple languages out front. If you have access to a car, the agriturismi can be outstanding. I lived in Calabria for 4 years and visit often. Here’s a link to a recent post of a meal that was truly divine:

    • margieinitaly

      You are so right about avoiding places with signs in various languages, a sure key that it is a touristy place. Thank you as well for adding the link to your blog post. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  4. stellalucentellc

    Thanks Marge, for featuring a family-run Italian restaurant! These small restaurants truly make visiting Italy special. Your story brings to mind a restaurant I discovered in Florence called Ristorante Paoli. It is featured in some guidebooks but I never would have found it on my own. My two teenage children and I had just arrived from Milan around noon after trying out the new high speed Frecciarossa train. We were already hungry, so I asked the concierge at our hotel where HE would go for lunch. He recommended Ristorante Paoli and gave us a map with directions. It was just a little off the main tourist trail. We were going to see Michelangelo’s David, and it was on our way, so we started out walking in the mid day heat, taking time to see the Ponte Vecchio along the way. By the time we arrived at the restaurant, it was a little after 2 PM – the usual closing time for a restaurant serving lunch in Italy. I’ll never know if it was because we looked tired and hungry (which we were) or if it was because I was with my two children (Italians never turn away children), but the waiter politely welcomed us in and then closed the doors to the restaurant a short while later, after when the few remaining patrons had left! After serving us our wonderful homemade pastas and sauces, the waiters then sat down to eat their own lunch in a table behind ours. We loved the food so much that I took a picture of the restaurant and included it in my Conversational Italian for Travelers books. I will never forget their hospitality that day and also the wonderful homemade pasta – I even I can still smell the aroma of the fresh pesto on my son’s dish and see the generous portion of shaved truffles on my daughter’s entree – and my children often ask me when we will return for some of the best pasta in all of Italy!

    • margieinitaly

      What a heartwarming story, Kathryn…It is so Italy!! Thank you so much for sharing your experience here! I am always amazed at the kindness and generosity of the Italian people who go out of their way to please you! Is it any wonder we are in love with Italy?

  5. apollard

    Travelling solo for me changed my focus away from restaurants toward takeout tasty morsels such as Suppli/Arrancini and pre-packaged soup from Eataly i could heat in my room. It was such a pleasure when I did occasionally meet friends and have a restaurant dinner, mmm Sea Bass and Melanzane. Only twice did I sit in a restaurant alone and have a meal, one time was awkward as the locals kept looking across at me, 🙁 made me feel lonely when i am not normally bothered by this, the second time, the waiter was social and chatty and made it easy but whew, it was expensive! I love reading about other solo travelers restaurant experiences. Maybe next time I will be more relaxed!

    • margieinitaly

      Thank so much Andrea for commenting and sharing your solo travel experiences..we have much in common.I think the more you go the more relaxed you are traveling solo

  6. jomamahep

    One of the best meals we’ve ever had on our three trips to Italy was quite by accident. We had been roaming around Florence most of the morning and suddenly realized we were starving. We had a tour set up for the afternoon, but had plenty of time to kill so we planned on getting take away and just sitting on the piazza to people watch until it was time to meet our tour guide. HOWEVER, walking down a side street we noticed a bunch of construction guys going inside a building down the block. Then we noticed a few more. Then we noticed a Nonna and her two grandchildren go inside. By this time we were at the door. We looked at each other and said, “Why not?” It was like stepping inside a movie set of what you imagine a typical Italian setting. Sausages, herbs, cheeses hanging from the ceiling above the meat counter. About 30 tables crammed inside the small space. Waiters running everywhere. Papa ringing up meat counter purchases while yelling at the waiters to get the customers seated. It was a little neighborhood, blue collar place and was packed to the gills, it was loud–and exactly what we realized we had been looking for!! By far THE best meal out of the many I’ve now been blessed to eat in Italy. I’m going back again this summer and am definitely going to try to find it again. The lesson learned was obvious–get off the beaten, tourist path and pay attention to the locals. They will never steer you wrong.

    • imarancher

      Your story reminded me of what I do driving across and around America; follow the big rigs to their choice of truck stops. I have had some world class meals at these places. Yes, there is a lot of cheeseburgers and cheese frys and such but also great salad bars and soups du jour and plenty of vegetable plates for vegetarians. A really expansive menu and mostly fresh produce. Even the small diner type places put out delicious home cooking that is the local choice. Just look for full parking lots (we drive everywhere) and you get good meals at a good price.

    • margieinitaly

      Wow…you did find the best place thanks to your keen observations. Yes, when the locals eat somewhere you know t has to be good. Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful time when you return to Italy this summer!!

  7. imarancher

    After reading this post and seeing the pics I was drooling! For all you other readers I can guarantee that if Margie says a restaurant is good, it is very good. She knows her Italian food!

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